Just as Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner seeks to unite his own party after a divisive primary, state Sen. Sam McCann said Thursday he’s joining the gubernatorial race as a “conservative party” candidate.
Rauner’s campaign slammed the Downstate legislator’s decision, and Democratic rival J.B. Pritzker cheered, eager to widen the rift between conservatives and more moderate Republicans that surfaced in the March primary.
In a lengthy announcement video, McCann says he’s running because Rauner and Chicago Democrats “have led our state down the wrong path — higher taxes, backward morals and disrespect for the rule of law.”
“I’m Sam McCann and I’m running for governor to put Illinois on the path to prosperity and promise,” McCann says in the video. The Plainview Republican has served in the Illinois Senate since 2010.
His announcement makes no mention of Pritzker, instead focusing on Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan and Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, both Chicago Democrats.
His ire is targeted mostly on Rauner, whom he accuses of “surrendering to Chicago Democrats.” And he’s also speaking to the ultra-conservatives in the state, many of whom voted for state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, in the primary. Rauner defeated Ives by just three percentage points.
“Rauner’s failure at leadership has led to the progressive spread in a state that attacks our religious liberties and allows tax-funded abortion on demand,” McCann says.
McCann, who received $50,000 in backing from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 this week, is no ally of Rauner’s. Jim Sweeney is president-business manager of the union, which last year invested $2 million in an ownership stake in the Chicago Sun-Times.
McCann survived a brutal 2016 primary challenge by a candidate backed by Rauner after McCann crossed swords with the governor on an important vote involving the state’s contract with AFSCME employees.
McCann, whose district is home to many state workers, said he was voting for his district.
McCann’s 2016 victory gave him a degree of independence from Rauner, which he put on full display by being the only Senate Republican to vote to override the governor’s veto of school funding legislation last year that Rauner contended was a Chicago bailout.
McCann in December 2017 announced he wouldn’t seek another term as senator, while outlining his disdain for Rauner and the state’s Republican Party.
“I am unable to continue on with a party or a governor who continually attack working people; who support forcing taxpayers to fund abortions; who have turned Illinois into a sanctuary state; who have advanced the most liberal standards in the nation giving transgender individuals the ability to alter their birth certificates. … This is no longer a Republican Party that is recognizable to me,” he said in a statement.
The Plainview senator on Thursday said he’d work to reverse HB40 — the controversial legislation Rauner signed that expands taxpayer-funded abortions. And featuring a clip of Rauner saying “Buenos dias,” McCann says “law and order have vanished in the last four years under Rauner.” Those were two key issues Ives had also vowed to fight.
McCann says the state has become a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, and that the rights of gun owners are under attack. Illinois needs a governor “who will support our federal government to deport illegal immigrants,” he says.
McCann will have to get 25,000 signatures by June 25 in order to get on the ballot. His running mate is Aaron Merreighn, whom he calls a veterans’ rights activist.
Rauner’s campaign on Thursday called McCann “the worst kind of political opportunist who is only running for Governor to line his own pockets.”
“Public service should not be for personal gain and Sam McCann’s new ‘campaign’ is just a thinly-veiled attempt to profit off of politics,” Rauner spokesman Will Allison said in a statement.
The campaign outlined several controversies that have swirled around McCann, including his claim that he received an “honorable discharge” as a member of the U.S. Marine Corp; tax liens owed by his firms as a construction company owner and his misuse of campaign funds.
McCann was injured in Marine boot camp and said he had been discharged. But he’s never produced his papers. He blamed his tax issues on user error, and last year acknowledged he used campaign funds to buy a SUV and other car parts.
Pritzker took a more positive tone to the announcement. In a statement he said he welcomes “another voice to the race for governor.”
“Bruce Rauner is a failed governor who has done untold damage to communities throughout Illinois, and people from across the political spectrum are ready for change,” he said.